As some of you will have heard, I recently took the biggest result of my cycling life to date with 2nd place at the British national time trial championship somewhere in the North of England.. But this wasn’t what people expected. It was even a bit of a shock to me! On the British Cycling official report they called me a “surprise package” and this is mostly due to the fact that I believe I have actually only done 6 or 7 TTs in my life! But now that things are starting to sink in a bit for me, I see the progression and sense in what has happened, so I thought I’d give you a bit of an insight!
The idea of targeting this race came about last year when I was sitting around for months recovering from a smashed-up collarbone. My attributes on the bike suit this sort of event and with the right preparation, my coach, Magnus Backstedt, and I believed I could make an impact. But this was only a vague idea at this point. The real journey started in March when I was out near Luxembourg and started to train on the TT bike. Simply getting hours in the position and getting used to putting out the power like that seem to be key.
I must stress at this point how my knowledge of time trialling physiology and technique is rather limited. I am relatively inexperienced in this field at the minute but always learning of course!
Test number 1: Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux, a UCI 2.2u race in Belgium with a hilly 10km TT on the morning of the third day of racing. After a pretty disastrous start to the season with injury and illness I was suffering through this race but still very motivated for this trial run! I had been on the TT bike a few times in the weeks running up to the race, but as always with solo training, I had no idea how it was really going… I went out with heavy legs and not knowing the course or corners (as I was so far down on GC, I started too early in the morning to see the roads), and put in a satisfactory performance. Around 50th place but knowing that taking the corners faster and a more controlled effort would have moved me up a lot of places! Anyway, this of course went under the radar.
Speaking of under the radar, this whole story was a bit of a secret plan. Knowing what a psychological game this Time Trialing business is, I thought it’d be better to keep my thoughts private and only apply the right kinds of pressure on myself. The more people that are involved, the less control you have with this and given that I had no real history in time trialing, I thought things would be better this way.
The bulk of the preparation was of course the work I put in behind the scenes. The countless intervals against myself going up and down a flat road along the river Saar, the core work, the research into time trialing efficiency and the long-term mental preparation for this 40minute ride. It was an interesting time as I knew the time and effort I was putting into this discipline, but apart from the data on the power meter I was collecting, I had no real reference point, so I sometimes wondered if it was a bit of a waste of time, all these times with a bad neck from the position or the knackered legs from a new style. But work behind the scenes is not always the most exciting part to read about, so I’ll skip forward..
The final run-in… Continuing with the style of my preparation for this high-profile race I made my unannounced return journey to home and planned an unofficial 10mile TT with my friend (and coached rider) Rory Finch, so on a local course we parked up and knocked out a ride on the open road. Placing him, the rabbit to chase, 4’30” up the road from me at the start, I knocked out a 18’40” ride averaging 52km/h, taking the course record and unfortunately finishing 30m behind Rory (most importantly).. With just a few days before the big goal, this was a nice dress rehearsal and a day where I got the feeling of pushing my effort almost to the limit but seeing there was more to go before I collapsed in a heap, and I think this was an important part of my ride on the day.
Thursday 28th June. Up in the North of England somewhere… I had the day planned out minute-by-minute to ensure I’m at the start-line in the best possible state. I even had the time to ride from the car to the start ramp incorporated into the plan. It went perfectly. I rolled off full of adrenaline and my inexperience showed. In the first 10km, despite having a fairly detailed pacing strategy, I went a good amount above the planned power. The heart rate was consequently very high as my body tried desperately to rid itself of the painful toxins in the muscles whilst still squeezing all possible effort out through the bike. Basically, I suffered for the whole ride. Fortunately my head was in a good place and with the warm-up playlist still going through my head, I managed to ignore a lot of the pain I was going through and despite seeing a drop in power across the ride, I got everything I had out on course and finished with a good sprint to the line.
It turns out I was in the leading position for a long time, but unable to handle the pressure after many previous times when I’ve seen my name tumble down the live result sheet, I sat in the changing room playing games on my phone…
But in the end I took second behind a flying Charlie Tanfield. With all things considered and points that I would later identify as ones to improve upon, I was seriously delighted with this result, this day, and this whole process! And so, I think I might do a bit more of this Time Trialling thing in the future! Why not?